Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Long Goodbye

There are days when I’d like to yank my heart from my chest, stomp on it and tell it to stop. Stop throbbing with hurt. Stop stealing my joy and stop sucking the energy out of my already weary body. Fortunately, those days are rare, but every now and then my grief over Sissy’s suicide creeps up on me when I’m not looking and bitch slaps me. On both cheeks. And then grabs hold of my heart and squeezes. Until I can hardly breathe. It’s been two months since Sissy died, and things have slowly gotten better, but yesterday was one of THOSE days, and it made me wonder how long these intense bursts of sadness will continue to sneak up on me.

If I had been paying attention I would have seen it coming. For about a week now, every time Teen Angel and I have made the nightly trek to Sissy’s house to feed her cat and sort through a few boxes and drawers I’ve felt somewhat frustrated by the mess there. There’s just so much stuff to go through. Every piece has to be touched, and every thing you touch rips the scab off an old memory. Some good. Some bad. It’s intense, and it’s slow. It’s up to Mama J. to make decisions about Sissy’s belongings, and it’s just been too difficult for her to process more than a little bit at a time. She has her own grief to deal with, so I understand, but the selfish part of me has wanted to get the packing over with quickly. Walking into that house night after night looking at the stacks of boxes that seem to shuffle around the room and go nowhere has slowly worn me down. I’m tired of looking at it. Tired of dealing with it, and I just want to be done with the whole overwhelming job of disposing of Sissy’s things.

We’ve had a handful of auctioneers visit the house and give us estimates on selling the contents. Some were expensive. Some didn’t want to handle it the way we wanted to, and one just rubbed us the wrong way. However, yesterday the gentleman who showed up was kind. And knowledgeable. And reasonable. He was sympathetic to our situation, and Mama J. hired him on the spot. And he started hauling stuff away immediately to sell at his auction house. We won’t even have to endure a long day of watching strangers ramble through Sissy's house and bid on the things she called hers. Hubby called me at work to tell me the news, and I was overjoyed. I couldn’t wait to get home and see the progress. “Finally,” I thought. “We’re getting somewhere.” By the time I got home, changed clothes and shoveled down a tuna sandwich the auctioneer had come back for another load. He was picking up the big pieces of furniture and had left gaping holes in the piles stacked in each room. He had already cleared out much of the mountain of cardboard and plastic containers in the garage. I introduced myself and told him I could hug his neck, and then I walked into the house. And fought not to fall apart.

I wasn’t prepared for the emptiness of her bedroom or the slice of pain that seared my heart. The wave of grief caught me by surprise and literally took my breath. All of this time I had wanted the stuff to go, and now that it was I couldn’t stand to see it leave. “Why?” I wondered. “Why is this bothering me now?” and after pretending to clean a closet away from the watchful eyes of everyone else I fought for composure and answers.

I think it’s because this really is goodbye. Even though I had watched Sissy’s depression overtake her life and suspected for months she wouldn’t live to her next birthday, I guess a tiny, irrational part of my heart held out the false hope that she didn’t really jump from that bridge. That the coroner was mistaken, and it wasn’t really her in that closed casket. That she would call from Vegas or some far away place and tell us it was all a mistake and she had really run off to find herself. She would beg for forgiveness and ask someone to pick her up at the airport and we would laugh with relief over her latest adventure. That tiny little part of my heart surrendered last night, and hobbled out the door with her bed, dresser and sofa. Hubby and I stood at the front door and watched the trailer pull away with the remnants of Sissy’s life, thinking the same thing without having to say it. We stood there silently, communicating with our hearts the way people who have been married a long time do. I have never felt so united and yet so alone at the same time.

The garage that was full just two days ago was suddenly too empty to look at. I took a quick picture of it when I left because I felt an unexplainable reason to capture the moment.

The auctioneer will be back tomorrow to pick up everything else, and the house will be stripped to its bones. The essence of Sissy will be gone from there, and the emptiness will echo between the walls and repeat in our hearts. The sister I had for nearly twenty years is gone. I am finally going to have to end this long goodbye. I will carry her in my heart for the rest of my life, and some days that spot will hurt. Most days it will warm with pleasant memories of the way she used to be. I know this because yesterday was one of THOSE days. Today was not.


Mike Golch said...

I don't want to rain on your parade,but there are time that the loss of my Dad(1984) and the loss of my Mom(2003) still tear me up.Granted both their deaths were due to natural causes,the pain is still the same.the best we can do is to ride the emotion out and try to keep moveing forward the best we can.

karisma said...


oreneta said...

Hugs and hugs and hugs hon. It is always always tough to say goodbye, even when your moving towards something, this is so hard.

{{{{{{{{{{hugs hugs hugs}}}}}}}}}}}

Go kiss that baby....anecdotes for most ills.

Trailboss said...

Oh sweetie. I truly do know some of how you feel. When Mother went to the nursing home I was pregnant with Stephanie and was the one that went through her entire house. For many many evenings I was at her house, opening boxes and drawers, deciding who might want what. There were lots of tears and lots of laughs. Being pregnant didn't help either. Most of her stuff was taken to my house and stored in the garage because I didn't know what to do w/it. The rest was hauled off to the dump. It just wasnt worth saving. I finally had a garage sale after my husband at the time split up. I sold a lot of stuff and used the money for a new rental house for me and the kids. Mother would have liked that. By this time she no longer knew who I was since the ALS and dementia had taken her mind. So I realize what an emotional roller coaster this has been on all of you. I wanted to tell you something too. The song "Sissy's song" by Alan Jackson reminds me so much of you and your Sissy. It will get better with time but it will always hurt. I think of you and your family every day and keep you in my prayers. Stay strong with your sweet family.

Janis said...

The pain will always be with you, and it will still appear when you least expect it. Like Mike says, ride it out and remember the good times. Your having closure but at the same time reality is setting in. Keep the faith and may you find peace.

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

Just so sorry...and it's so true what you said about everything has to be touched, picked up, handled. It is exhausting and overwhelming. My heart so goes out to her mother. May God give grace and strength for every day, hour by hour, minute by minutes. Sending a big hug to you and yours.

J.G. said...

Having cleaned out my mom's things (so my dad didn't have to do it) and then his things a few years later, I sympathize with how strange a process that is.

The rational side that wants the stuff gone is no match for the emotional side that wants to hang on a little bit longer.

Sending you good thoughts.